Captivating kids: Reading Rock Stars connects students with renowned authors

Ruben Peña, 7, and Itzel Barajas, 7, and the rest of the second-grade class read along with author Steven Weinberg from his book “You Must Be This Tall” during UTRGV FESTIBA Reading Rock Stars event at LBJ Elementary on Thursday in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez |

Children at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary in Edinburg huddled close together Thursday, engaged with and wowed by author and illustrator Steven Weinberg sketching characters from his book, “You Must Be This Tall.”

The storyteller was showing the second graders how to bring them to life with just a marker, drawing paper and an easel.

“A rattlesnake!” children in an LBJ library exclaimed when Weinberg asked for distinguishing qualities of one of the book’s central characters.

“Yeah!” the author responded before taking suggestions on how to draw them.

This was also likely the scene across several Rio Grande Valley schools, where renowned authors are expected to stop by as part of the two-day Reading Rock Stars event held in coordination with UTRGV’s annual Festival of International Books and Arts, or FESTIBA.

Weinberg was one of three authors at LBJ on Thursday. Others included the author of “Gift From Abuela,” Cecilia Ruiz, and “Someone Like Me,” Julissa Arce.

Reading to pre-k, kindergarten and first graders, Ruiz sat and read excerpts from her book that proved popular with the kids in attendance.

“One day, Niña remembered. She realized it had been too long since she had last seen Abuela,” Ruiz read from her children’s book as students looked on inside the cafeteria.

Ruiz also took questions from students and started drawing them as some furry friends, such as a raccoon.

Other authors who visited the Valley on Thursday were Peter Reynolds (“Say Something”), Jon Scieszka (“Math Curse”) and Jennifer Torres (“Flor and Miranda Steal the Show”) at Carl Waitz Elementary in Mission; in addition to Rafael López (“We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands”), Tony Piedra (“The Greatest Adventure”) and Marcus Emerson (“The Incredible Exploding Kid”) at Rudy Silva Elementary in Weslaco.

Reading Rock Stars festivities continue Friday at JW Caceres Elementary in Donna, where Piedra, Ruiz and Emerson are also scheduled to speak with students in addition to folklorico dancers and school cheerleaders being part of the event.

At Guillermo Flores Elementary in Mission, Reynolds, Scieszka and Torres will be on-hand; as will López, Weinberg and Arce at Hurla M. Midkiff Elementary, also in Mission.